Deutsche Grammophon 136 211
Ferenc Fricsay, conductor
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Pressing: Blue tulips, red stereo
Date first published: 1961
Price Range: $28-133, mean $81 on popsike
Comments: This one came as quite a surprise. I wasn't expecting one of these early red stereo label, blue tulips DG LPs to have stunning sound, but I was actually impressed when I dropped the needle on this one. We have a program of ballet music from the opera, with Ferenc Fricsay at the helm of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. This must have been a trend for the classical LP market at the time, because we have at least a few other contemporary releases including ones from RCA (LSC-2400 with Fistoulari and the PCO -- highly valuable and stunning in sound) and UK Columbia (SAX 2421 with Karajan and the BPO, definitely respectable sound). The repertoire, not surprisingly, is similar between them: music from Verdi's Aida is on all three albums, music from Ponchielli's La Gioconda is on the DG and Columbia, music from Mussorgsky's Khovantschina is on the RCA and the Columbia. This one happens to have music from Gounod's Faust, which is always enjoyable, Verdi's Othello, and the Waltz and Polonaise from Tchaikovsky's Eugen Onegin, so by program alone, this DG album wins out in my book. The performances are lively and energetic. Who'd have thought that the Dance of the hours from La Gioconda would later be the focus of several parodies, including a Spike Jones spinoff and the Allen Sherman song "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah"? The album may not have quite the incredible sonics of the Fistoulari record, but it is no slouch either. I heard a very nice, wide and deep soundstage with excellent dynamics, a pleasing treble, and decent bass. As you can see, there is quite a wide price range on this one. I picked mine up for $24 on Ebay, which I thought was reasonable, and if you look hard enough, you'll find it without burning a hole in your wallet.